Thursday, December 06, 2018

Two local walks

Start of the Leslie Vale Track

 After the Mt. Dromedary fiasco, I have set my sights a little lower literally this past week and my friends and I have gone for gentler, shorter walks, not far from home. On both days the weather was still a bit drizzly, hence the rather dull picture quality, but quite pleasant walking weather all the same.

The first walk was the Leslie Vale Track through horsey country at the back of Kingston.  This is in fact one of several horse trails in the area and should take about an hour and a half if all goes well. The first part travels through farmland alongside the main highway and then does a short traverse through the bush before re -emerging between five acre paddocks. Unfortunately, we then came upon a “Y” junction which was not marked on the map and with no indication of whether to go left or right. This seems to be the story of my life lately. Since this was to lead us to a road, we decided on the route to the right, where you could see some houses in the distance. This, alas, ended in private property (unsigned as such) and as we were walking down a driveway towards the road, an angry farmer came out and told us off, adding that we weren’t the only ones. At least he wasn't the kind of farmer who comes out weilding a shotgun.  I told the council afterwards and they said thanks as they were in the process of reprinting the map and they would also try to add a directional sign at the junction. 

The only other blood pressure raising moments were walking back along busy Lesley Vale Road, which is narrow, windy and without footpaths and where the traffic goes incredibly fast. On the plus side, everything was lovely and green after all the rain and there were a few wildflowers about including a rare broadleaved Boronia.

I think this must be the rare broadleaved Boronia. Have asked Santa to bring me the definitive guide to native plants. The hand drawn sketches in the little field guides - lovely as they are, just don't cover things like this and the Field Naturalists are tired of me badgering them for information

The second walk, another shortish one on the fringes of suburbia, ran between Huon Road and the Waterworks Reserve. I was quite pleased to see the Reserve again, having recently written about it. You will see what I mean about the nod to aesthetics and not just practicality in the public works built around the turn of the century. There’s a nice little bit of history – more of a scandalous history really, documented within the little sandstone pumphouse at the far end. Many other tracks also start from here, more than I would have thought even though I have now lived in Hobart for over two decades.  The really lovely thing about them is that they are only about ten minutes’ drive from the centre of Hobart and you don’t need a lot of gear, yet you feel like you are a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city with its crazy new parking meters and even crazier Christmas shoppers. 

Tranquility reigns or should I say rains, at the Reserve

Inside the old Pumphouse - see what I mean about the industrial architecture of yesteryear being somewhat more interesting than the utilitarian structures which followed

Birds call, the scent of eucalyptus is in the air and the wallabies don’t even bother to bound away as we pass. Alas the dogwoods, which bloomed more spectacularly this year than I have ever seen them, are now in decline but there are bright spots of trigger plants and foxgloves and  the odd unexpected orchid.    

Though fading now, the humble dogwoods have put on a spectacular display this year

Foxgloves are not native to Tasmania but their tall spikes add a touch of mystery and colour
Trigger plants do their best to compete
Along with these ????
... and these white daisy bushes.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Students Take Action against Climate Change

School children gather on the laws of Parliament House in Hobart on Thursday to protest about Government inaction on Climate Change

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is not happy. School children all over Australia are leaving their classrooms to protest about the lack of action on Climate Change. “They should be in school,” he says, yet had school children not protested in 1992 due to lack of action by Governments, the French would probably still be conducting nuclear tests in the Pacific.
As temperature records are broken, Queensland burns and Sydney is in the grip of wild weather, the children say, “If the government was doing anything, we wouldn’t have to.” 

Some would argue that these children have a better understanding of science and how our democracy is supposed to work, than many of our elected representatives. They are also the ones who will have to live with the consequences of what we do or do not do today.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Mt. Dromedary Unconquered

Start of the Mt. Dromedary Track, eventually - unmarked as well

I can confidently assert that my reputation as a slothbagger remains unblemished. I blame Google Maps for this at least in part, for first sending us up a couple of backroads that ended in large gates and private property signs. The signs may not have deterred me all that much, but the slavering dogs behind them certainly did.
After a roundabout journey which involved an assault from the back of New Norfolk, we did eventually find ourselves on another track which did not however, bear any relationship to the first one. 
It looks like a waxflower but is in fact a lemon -scented boronia (Boronia Citriodora). I didn't think of smelling it

Mt. Dromedary has a couple of claims to fame. It does have a distinctly camelid shape and at 989m it supposedly gives excellent views of the surrounding countryside, especially up and down the Derwent, so good in fact, that famous bushranger Martin Cash used it as his lookout to check for the arrival of stage coaches and or passing strangers who might be worth robbing. At least he was a gentleman about it, always polite to the ladies and kind to the poor, public protest being the only reason he wasn’t hanged and was able to end his life peacefully as police constable and orchardist in the foothills of Claremont below. Mount Dromedary is also reputed to have some interesting geological features – tafoni, which are very popular with striated pardalotes (not the extremely endangered ones).

One of several kinds of berries - possibly a Cheeseberry (Cyathodes straminea) or one of its relatives

We wandered up and wandered down. After a few hours we came to a t- junction and the second of a little clutch of tape markers. Unfortunately, they seemed to point mainly in the direction from which we had come, with no indication of whether to turn right or left.  My walking partner took the high road to the left and I proceeded down what looked like a gentle slope to the right. In case one of you bright sparks suggests we should have used the TasMap for this area, the latest walking guide says that the Tasmap isn’t correct either. Next time I will tape a GPS logger and a camera to my forehead, so that both Google and TasMaps will know exactly where to go. I will also take along a supply of breadcrumbs.

The mountain berries were especially bright here - (Leptocophylla junipera) Don't get excited though they have the taste and texture of polystyrene

After a kilometre or so, it looked as if neither of those tracks went anywhere, so we drew lots and headed south west on the assumption we should at least meet up with the other track from Platform Peak which was the alternative but longer route at the first junction. After another couple of kilometres we came to another track  which veered off confidently to the right – this in my estimation  could have led to the point where the track was to climb steeply uphill for 50 minutes, but instead it made another lunge downhill and in the wrong direction. My friend who is on the whole more cautious than I am, decided that we should quit while we were ahead and turn around before we got terminally  lost. 

White hakea was very prolific here too, though mostly this forest is rather dry and sparse

The tracks may well have been woodcutters’ tracks –there was a lot of sawdust and fallen timber about and the whole area had been burnt out a few years ago, which may have been the reason there were so few markers, as was the case at Little Fisher River a few weeks ago. This is getting to be a habit. I am a bit disappointed with my walks this year.

Three way junction - if anyone recognises this and can tell me which way to go I will give it another try. At least Mt. Dromedary isn't as far as Ben Lomond or the Hartz

By the time we got back to the car my feet felt like bleeding stumps and I had the distinct feeling that I should have stopped about three kilometres earlier. Secretly I am rather relieved that we didn’t find the ascending track. I don’t think I could have survived the 50 minute “Moderate” climb.  My friend estimates that we walked ten or twelve kilometres as it was, and it has taken me at least three days to get over it.  Soon I should be able to get to the upstairs bathroom without my trekking pole.(Don't worry, just joking. No need to send condolences).
Zoom still not working on my camera, but I think this may be a Hobart Brown Butterfly (Argynnina hobartia) Tasmania's one endemic butterfly - there were lots of them on this walk though Tasmania is not blessed with a large number of species, only 39 compared to the mainland's 400 or those in more tropical regions, but this too is an area which has not yet been well studied.

Still, if walking is about leaving the city behind and getting some exercise and fresh air, rather than achieving loftier objectives, we succeeded admirably and also saw some pretty wildflowers and dancing butterflies, not to mention a forlorn lilac tree in full bloom (not a native). You could say we had a lovely walk around Mt. Dromedary, if not exactly up it. However, this walk also reminded me  how truly wild Tasmania is, even just beyond the city fringe. It's no wonder our houses huddle together around a narrow coastal strip and generally turn their backs upon the bush.   

Last rays of sunshine as we head back down

Monday, November 12, 2018

Behind the Wall - Hill Street Reservoir

Gulag Architecture  - not her Majesty's Prison but a historic waterworks begun 1861

It's Architecture Month in Hobart and over the weekend many buildings both public and private, were open to the public. You can have a look at some of them here.
Alas, many places were already booked out even before the brochure was published and the times of several which I would have liked to see, clashed with others I wanted to visit.  From the website, you will see that Hobart certainly has a range of intriguing architecture. I have visited or mentioned some of these buildings such as the Markree House Museum or the charming Egyptian -style Jewish Synagogue previously, and for a short time we lived opposite the Tate House in Taroona, so I thought I would just take a peek at the Hill Street Reservoir which is only a short walk from my house. Alas, this too was already pre -booked out, but after a bit of pestering and pleading, Taleah agreed to let me know if someone failed to turn up and I managed to go on the last tour of same.

You could be forgiven for thinking this was designed to stop people escaping, but it's designed to stop people falling into a vast empty reservoir

Taleah of Taswater

The exterior of the Hill Street Reservoir and Pump Station which I pass on my way to the local shops, had always looked rather grim and Alcatraz –like  with its high fences, barbed wire and  intimidating “No Standing” signs, so I was quite curious as to what lay inside. Besides, I have always been rather intrigued by our industrial heritage. The grand houses and stately homes are usually well -preserved and much is known about them, but our more utilitarian buildings are only now starting to be appreciated when we have lost most of them.  I think of the charming power station on Lake Margaret with its brass fittings and clerestory windows, or the gracious lines of our early, usually Art Deco Hydro buildings or the quaint pump houses in the Derwent Valley, so my expectations were rather high.  [In regard to Art Deco, see for example, the Jet Service Station built in 1936, number 26 in the brochure, which was also on show].

Interior of original reservoir

In terms of the beauty of the architecture, the reservoir didn't exactly leave me breathless. Only function and necessity have dictated its form, but there are some intriguing details. For instance, as Damian, engineer with Taswater explained, in the early days of the colony, when concrete had not yet been invented and the colony had little limestone, Aboriginal shell middens were burnt and used to make mortar to line the brick cistern. If you look closely at the walls of the first Hill Street Reservoir, built in 1862, you will see bits of shells and burnt wood. 

Damian from Taswater also expounds on the difficulty of maintaining pressure, purity and supply as Hobart grows and the climate warms

Midden shells and charcoal still show in the mortar of the original reservoir built in 1862

The old Reservoir now houses pumps and valves

Unfortunately, these walls leaked like a sieve and as Hobart grew, a second reservoir was built in 1883. By this time, materials had improved and this one still serves as auxiliary storage today with most of the old reservoir now occupied by a pumping station built in the 1980s. This regulates flow to various parts of Hobart and provides supplementary water from the river in summer when mountain supplies run low. The style of the pumping station is utterly Spartan with no concession to any artistic sensibilities at all. Its most remarkable feature beyond a mundane collection of pipes, valves and gauges is its very neat cleaning station, but perhaps that’s a comforting thought. 

Incidentally, Taswater staff have noticed changes as the climate warms – not just in the greater need for back up supplies, but also the increasing growth of algae and other organisms in our catchments, which mean far greater costs to keep water clean and pure.

I probably prefer this end of our water supply, but it's good to know how it gets into our houses

Regardless of its architectural merit, the Hill Street Reservoir plays an important role in the history of Hobart’s water supply -an intriguing story in its own right, and one which we often take for granted. A visit to the original pumphouse at the Waterworks Reserve is very instructive in that regard, or as you walk along the Pipeline Track either from Ferntree to Ridgeway or up to Wellington Falls. In my case today's tour at least represents a mystery solved.

Historic photo of the RidgewayDam given to me by Taswater